China’s state-run Global Times firmly took the North Korean regime’s side against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in editorials on Sunday and Monday, supporting Pyongyang’s denunciation of the message from Washington as a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization.”
“If those requests were ‘gangster-like’ then the world is a gangster because there was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved,” Pompeo said in response to North Korea’s complaint.
The Global Times got behind North Korea, with the obligatory disclaimer that China is all in favor of denuclearization but has less control over North Korean behavior than the United States believes.
The Chinese paper accused the Trump administration of using North Korea as a pawn in its geostrategic chess game against China:
The US has been using North Korea as pretext to justify its military presence in Northeast Asia and the entire Asia-Pacific. For the US, the long-term management of China is more of a national security concern than North Korean nuclear tests, a CIA analyst told Time last year.
By tightly controlling the valves of the regional situation, the US is trying to manipulate the tension of the peninsula according to its strategic needs to maximize its interests. This is the real intention of Washington.
The US is the dominant factor in the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Countries concerned, including South Korea and Japan, should realize the long and difficult path to North Korea’s denuclearization.
Regional powers allied with Washington should craft their own way to solve the nuclear issue instead of serving as US yes-men. At present, their military alliance with the US has increased the complexity and difficulty of regional peace in the long run, although they might feel sheltered under the protection of the US umbrella.
This is a reversal of the longstanding Western complaint that China uses North Korea as a tool for extracting strategic and diplomatic concessions, essentially renting itself out as the only dogcatcher that can contain the feral North Korean hound when it slips its leash. China is still playing that game, as can be seen from the above effort to peel Japan and South Korea away from the U.S. alliance.
On Monday, the Global Times followed up by warning Trump that his Art of the Deal tactics won’t work with either Pyongyang or Beijing:
The recent changes on the Korean Peninsula suggest that the US can to some degree suppress North Korea by creating undue pressure, but it cannot expect to thereby force Pyongyang to denuclearize in full compliance with US conditions. Denuclearization can be achieved when the US and North Korea abandon nuclear weapons for security and set up a new peace mechanism that can replace the armistice. Otherwise, North Korea won’t abandon nuclear weapons – either in a phased manner or at one go.
Regrettably, the US has not provided a clear plan in this regard. On the contrary, some voices within the country insist that any policy on North Korea be approved by the Congress and the subject of US troops stationed in South Korea should be out of the ambit of the talks. This will only weaken Pyongyang’s faith in Trump’s promise and dampen its hope for future negotiations.
Instead of simply using force, a grand strategy thinking by Washington is needed to make Pyongyang come around to the idea of denuclearization. The Trump administration needs to drop its so-called art of the deal that advocates maximum pressure and caprice. Instead, it has to act bold by making a compromise or striking deals with Pyongyang to work out a clear plan on security guarantee, arrangement for denuclearization and the peace mechanism on the peninsula. If the destination is clear, the choice of a path will be easier.
It will come as no surprise to learn that the Global Times’ idea of bold, fresh tactics for the U.S. involves giving China everything it wants: ease up on trade issues with China, stop “playing tricks over the Taiwan question and the South China Sea issue,” and pull American forces out of the Korean Peninsula.
President Donald Trump is unlikely to take the Chinese paper’s advice on how to proceed. On Monday, he lambasted China for attempting to derail negotiations with North Korea. His criticism was essentially the Global Times editorial in reverse: “I have confidence that Kim Jong-un will honor the contract we signed and, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese trade. Hope not!”